I’d need a fee to track Gadget or Ellie Bloggs down. I’d take the thirty pieces of silver (twice of course, I’m a professional). It shouldn’t take too long. Clues are often left in text. In one James Joyce piece, I forget which and almost certainly didn’t read it, the journey of one character through Dublin is alleged to spell out ‘FUCK OFF’ on the map of Dublin. One would hope Monday Books is reasonably secure. I lack the PI charisma that could charm the truth out of a secretary through big shoulders and suggestive eyebrows away. The key would be mapping any truth in their texts to reality. Ellie is recently promoted sergeant and the numbers game on this reduces the field considerably. IG references the Swamp and Reservation, the first indigenous, the latter Afghani, mapping to whatever a division is now to wherever in the rough Home Counties he is supposed to be. One could go on. Later we might use known examples of the actual writers’ prose against the books and blogs. I hope no one gives a damn, for with police resources and authority this looks an easy task if they are ‘real’. One could say the same about Andy McNab and Bravo Two Zero.
I would say again and am not really concerned about the reality of two of my own favourite bloggers, or mean to impugn their integrity. Panorama, Dispatches and occasionally Newsnight have been far more devastating, though almost to no avail. Rough Justice, truly scary if hoist on its own petard, is long gone. Both our blogging friends would be brief martyrs, if exposed. There have been few scapegoats in Parliament’s expenses thieving and none of them show any sign of going down, other than in public humiliation and remaining the butts of Ian Hislop’s now jaded ridicule. We somehow expect that when corruption (I mean the corruption partially shown in the blogs) is outed that our system will ensure justice and make its systems better. We actually get very little of either. I’ve been asking friends and people down the pub what they know of very serious miscarriages of justice and government and can say the absence of knowledge and memory on such is frightening. I’ve seen academic exposition of the idea that investigation of miscarriages of justice are about ensuring the system is self-correcting, but believe these are simplistic.
What I would like to argue is for arguments that attack assumptions in ways similar to the manner in which science goes about its business in detailed scepticism. It hardly matters whether IG or Ellie are ‘real’. The issues to understand are whether such an attack on them that proved they are not has much, if any bearing on what they and others are saying in the blogs. I take the view they could be equally or possibly more credible if they are not police officers. The first scientific question is just what such text is and the conditions of its existence. Text that looks as though it is the writing of postmodern scholars is at least allegedly be produced by machine. I can certainly write such twaddle and rely on conference gatekeepers not to think I’m just taking the piss, and there was a wonderful hoax on the journal Social Text by physicist Alan Sokal. Many of us believe science only looks rational when we have cooled our explanations down with the help of others, after plenty of passion, blood, tears and sweat spent. Whatever any of us are in trying to get something done about the social mess, it ain’t some cool, dispassionate, objective, utterly reasonable individual. Anyone claiming this is at the very least playing that language game (Wittgenstein) and is probably lying to us and himself. Psychopaths (as defined against the standard) are often good at this particular language game and are know to be three times as persuasive in parole hearings than standard goons. And who is on these parole boards if not a bunch of ‘professionals’ being “objective”? Just look at the dross politicians take us in through.
We need another way, though hopefully of a kind that is not the ‘fourth way’ that follows the ‘third way’. A way that ain’t the old con in newly fashioned form, or another Ponzi scheme given approval by accountants. The first thing we might want to sweep away as scientists is “credibility”; mine or anyone else’s. We need our facts to be demonstrable, not stuff we are persuaded by through ‘charisma’ or easy appeal to our prejudices – which I suggest is sadly the state of our politics. Wittgenstein suggested and to some extent practised an academic form of this. Essentially, we need to get far enough down in arguments to see that many apparently opposing sides contain similar assumptions that may well be wrong. Nothing like this can happen until we have control over the evidence collection so that we can avoid much that goes wrong in ordinary argument because we fall out because simple facts are being hidden from us or manipulated.
There are few intellectual matters involved in thinking and practising our way through the social mess. What is needed is attention to the rules and the apprehended abuse of them by those in power and a focus on ourselves that accepts we are no damn good at arguing. In a so-called democracy we have (probably) decent cops who can’t come forward and tell us what is going wrong – I’d say this is across our society and not even restricted to the public sector. What point Wittgenstein under this level of corruption? What we need to create is a court of appeal which can get at the real evidence in our interests, not of full of stuffed-shirt interests or controllable by those in power. I wonder if any of us would blog at all if we had a real Fourth Estate in place of the scandal sheets and shiny-people media.
I know after more than 20 years in research and teaching that the answers are not in classrooms of academe. I reckon I was able to teach or encourage the development of less than 0ne in twenty of my students into critical reasoners from the ground up. Most of them don’t even learn how influenced they are by advertising. What we need to stop is the use of intellect to bent purpose and this includes helping those who have it not to become elitist prigs. This also means doing something about letting people who can’t see their incompetence causes them to make very bad choices in argument realise those of us who can get it right a lot of the time aren’t going to be allowed just to rip them off.
There are examples in practice of structured self-correction. Near miss reporting by pilots is one. This has to be done in real confidence. The idea here is to avoid the fatal collision. There are thousands of near misses. In the social mess of the justice system we seem to end up saying no one could have seen Baby P, the Cochranes, Katie Summers, Mr. Askew and all the others coming, but the truth is we can, simply on the grounds there is no proper management information system of collation of the crimes involved – even a reluctance to crime anything of the massive number of incidents that we become aware of after people officially become victims (i.e. after they are dead).
My belief is that the situation we are in is is something like being in a team or one of the supporters of a highly underachieving sports team, living in the belief we would start doing OK if only we got the breaks. The truth is we don’t have a youth policy or system of scouts, don’t do game plans and regularly miss training, but do have a PR woman who writes about the ‘highest professional standards’ in our match programmes. The fans rarely come out of the social club on match days, but this is due to their alcohol addiction, not our dull play or the fact the last time a 50:50 ball was won by home colours was when the team mascot invaded the pitch after one too many. There are rumours of a new manager from Real Madrid, and one shows up, turning out to have been the water-carrier from their basketball team. We initially think there is a communication barrier in explaining the new training regime that has us passing the ball from hand to hand, before the penny drops that he wasn’t expecting to coach soccer. By the time our kit itself is made in cloth spun from invisible thread, the antisocial behaviour team formed by the PR woman has had anyone who might shout out on our nakedness issued with ASBOs and ground-exclusion orders. It will only emerge later that she was a non-executive director of the invisible kit company.
There are ways forward, and rather than finding the techniques that would let us hunt down Gadget, we need those of a corruption enquiry actually aimed at exposing the corruption rather than whitewashing it. It is time for The Untouchables, though we need to remember Eliot Ness was a blatant publicist, dwarfing all of Monday Books’ authors. We need some radical change in order that we can get back to ordinary puzzle solving.
The lesson we might learn from thinking through the idea that Gadget might not be as declared on the tin is about how careful we have to be in setting up the big facts in our lives through which we justify other facts. I tend to combine foundationalism and modern reliableism in the way I go about this, but we can’t expect people to catch up with the years I spent in academe. I’ve no doubt some of the professionals in the philosophy would write me off as ;no good at it’. I want us to be doing more middle-level thinking. A couple of pints of Ruralshire Bitter after watching IG at work for an afternoon sorts out his identity. Applying this same ‘demand’ for what I call the ‘tropical fish realist’ evidence to other areas of our mess is what I want to see. I rarely insist on this form of evidence in current affairs with my grandson (12), but I hope in teaching it as the difference between right and wrong (fairly gently until my patience snaps). The lack of it in our public affairs is some kind of medieval retentiveness.
The key question becomes what points in our system that we take as factual could be subject to the kind of ‘tropical fish realist’ enquiry that would track down the ‘real Inspector Gadget’? Can we find system ‘soft spots’ where such enquiry should be possible, but facts seem to be maintained without there having been one that can be replicated (an important scientific feature of demonstration)? Places where we may be able to bring down the house of cards and begin to build something worthwhile.
Nearly every argument I’ve studied starts with all parties to it getting stuff wrong. I’ve sometimes been made to feel I have to be perfect before I can contest anything in one. Given how aware I am of my own imperfections,you’d think this would shut me up forever! I’m also pretty sure most people become disabled in argument because of hidden and ritually displayed hostility, much as one finds in pack behaviour, with most of the rest politicking as one finds in other primates. We shouldn’t under-rate these animal effects. I tend to accept findings that suggest very low average IQ in sub-Saharan Africa. This would not lead me to want to put my life in the hands of the understanding of the academics who measure IQ or work with its secondary data sets, if I had to lead the Bushmen form of life. I would trust to their practices and intelligence, as I would offer mine to them in our world. The average sub-Saharan IQ (75) equips one for a life of truancy, special needs and crime in our society, but not in their own. The average IQ here of participants in police interrogations is 82 (I think I remember this excludes police officers). We might rate a good police dog at 80. Racists should take no cheer from anything like this. The tropical fish realist needs much more than evidence based on pen and paper tests amongst the pen-and-paperless.
My guess is that our common notions that systems in our democratic country work most of the time would prove groundless if subjected to the empirical tests needed to show Gadget ‘real’. My guess is that we would find what the undercover documentaries are finding. Crap,overpaid managers, hand-in-glove with piss poor politicians and QUANGO-types and performance teams, presenting an image of improvement whilst a cowed workforce who can’t stand up to any of this generally don’t get the job done and write it up as though they do. What we need is proof and the absence of proof is precisely why such a potentially fictitious position as ‘blogger’ interests me.
By coincidence, a letter from Louise Casey arrived today. It’s dire and mass produced. The new government have made her Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses. Louise is not a tropical fish realist and I doubt she gives a damn about victims or witnesses. Like many of the people appointed to jobs like this or IG’s beloved SMTs I have no idea whether she is any good or done anything successful in the past. About all I can be sure of is that we ‘the living’ never get to know or have a say. Louise ran an outfit that should have been highly critical of the treatment of the very category of people now put in her hands, and fronted a series of hyped success stories presenting an entirely false picture of fighting crime in our communities. She commissioned surveys that would help her political cause ahead of discovering how to go about helping victims and stopping people having to live under the misery of violent criminals and their dismal control and policing. I doubt, as an academic, she can have any clue how to get proper research done, and hope this is the case – she is beyond words if she does know. My partner and I were victims over and extended period whilst otherwise ill Louise. You should be talking to people like us – how many years too late is it now?
There is some big social philosophy that might help us form some practical theory. It’s limited stuff, but might help us move on from dumb notions of a fair world, and the dumber ones of Macht Politik applied to the everyday. Michel Foucault has been a popular example, along with Gramsci. Neither help that much, but could help us not to re-invent the wheel too often. But ask yourself if you really know how to build a wheel. Most of us have no clue. Most of us have no clue how to live close to the ground, yet we are prepared to regard those who do as inferior to us on the grounds they aren’t socialised to our form of life.
Gadget’s Swamp is no doubt full of disgusting shits, though in what proportion and how many of them are wife-beaters as he claims? What kind of questions would we be asking of whom if we really wanted to define our Swamps and the problems on them so we could sort them out? Around the country, at least 6 people on jobseeker’s allowance are applying for every jobcentre job. This hardly suggests jobs are growing on trees, or that most people unemployed wouldn’t take one. Yet there are scum who claim benefits, fill social housing (or otherwise use up housing benefit), hide behind their kids (who are typically out of control), use and distribute drugs, smuggled fags and booze, are loud, make neighbours’ lives hell and are a central part of a violence culture, beating each other and harassing and using violence in many ways (including punishment burglaries, criminal damage and noise) that nothing seems done about, even when there are hundreds of visits by cops and housing workers. What I think I’ve seen up close and personal is a small number of families leading this and a vast bureaucratic effort that misses them and wastes our money putting victims of these scrote at risk. Cops and Town Halls can’t take reasonable criticism and from the bottom up they all blame anyone else and would rather beat up victims to keep them quiet than admit professional failings.
The problem I have with the general police blog is that the themes feel part of the cover-up and lack of concern for the vulnerable, almost like a safety-valve put in place to get people to let off steam rather than blab the truth somewhere that might matter. Authors often cultivate their audience through blogs these days, and there is a ‘groupie’ element. They read too directly like the existential hero aspect of much fiction. We forget in this that real cops didn’t work with Jack Regan, but did with the likes of detective sergeant Challinor and his rhino-tailed whip in Leeds. Most police blogs perpetuate an overly-positive, acritical view of the police, already on view in fiction.
I’d like to see something much more positive and critical. I once congratulated an academic colleague with very genuine intent that her research reminded me of good detective work. This was high praise coming from me, but taken as an insult (she didn’t think much of detectives). I meant good detective work, as opposed to the bungling, whisky swilling clowning of various large-scale enquiries. When one sees a good one (Morecambe cockle-pickers?) one can only admire the effort, intelligence and team-building that contributes to brilliant, coordinated action over thousands of statements, case collation, presentation and prosecution. These are rare. Senior detectives on some enquiries seem to have been auditioning for roles as clowns in drop-your-trousers farces (Yorkshire Ripper, Black Panther, Soham, Nico Bento, the McCanns, the Detroux farce and maybe what was happening recently on Jersey until a decent detective was brought in. My guess is, given access, I’d find 70% plus incompetence in police and Town Hall agencies’ investigations. My personal experience has been worse than this and academics experienced in this field tend to think it’s worse too. I believe we need some people with carte blanche to do detective-style research across our society. We can’t just give bags of money to lawyers and let judges take 12 years doing what could be done in months. Yet we have to guard against known pitfalls. I’m as sure as I get, on a personal basis, that police, housing and social workers quickly stoop to totally unacceptable practices in their investigations and would guess the big reason for this is they lack self-critical capacity and real empathy to serve, operating as mortgage slaves and without democratic responsibility towards others – professionals in the worst sense of the term. This said, the best counter-example of this I ever knew was a charge office sergeant.